Monday, May 13, 2013


I sat in the straw. The lamb in my lap was only 18 hours old. Tight black curls covered her body. Her black triangular nose wrinkled as she sucked on the bottle nipple I held in her mouth. The lamb was warm and dry and nursing. She was doing well. Her sister, who had just finished off her half of the bottle was curled up beside her mother’s leg, sleepy, warm and full. Serenity.
Except I shouldn’t have been feeding these two lambs, their mother should. With a sigh, I propped the bottle in a corner of the pen, set down the lamb and knelt to deal with the ewe. She was big, with long legs and a heavy body, even after lambing. I set my left knee in front of her chest and leaned into her armpit with my right shoulder. Theoretically, I had her pinned against the wall in this position. I picked up the lamb and pushed her under her mother, facing backwards. Then I gently pushed the lamb’s head up toward her mother’s udder. When the lamb’s mouth touched her nipple, the ewe lifted her hind leg and brushed the lamb away.
I leaned harder, pushed the lamb closer to the udder and tried again. This time, the ewe moved forward, right over both lambs, nearly stepping on each of them. Close call! Ewes have killed lambs by stepping on them. Heart pounding, I put the second lamb into another pen and repositioned myself, left knee in front of the ewe’s chest, forehead in the depression right in front of her thigh. That should keep her from moving forward.
I put the lamb between her mother’s legs right under her belly. In this position I had two hands free, one to push the lamb under the udder and the second to stuff the mother’s nipple into her mouth. The lamb in the second pen was crying and her mother was baaing. The lamb opened her mouth to baa back to her mother, but not to nurse. The ewe moved. I gritted my teeth, pressed harder with my head, and moved my left knee from the ewe’s chest to the lamb’s butt. Now I could use my left hand to pry open the lamb’s mouth.
With the lamb’s mouth open and head in position, the ewe shifted her weight and the nipple slid out of my hand. I grabbed it again and inserted it. The lamb refused to nurse. I tickled its nose. It sucked. The ewe moved. The lamb was restless, trying to stand. With my left hand, I pushed down on her shoulders, raised her head and jammed the nipple in. The lamb sucked once and the ewe broke my hold, circled the pen, with me following, until we ended up back where we had begun. I threw my knee in front of her chest, leaned into her belly with my head, dragged the lamb into position and stuck the nipple into her mouth again. Just as she started to nurse, her mother lifted a foot and brushed the nipple out.
Goaded beyond endurance, I lifted my head and bit the ewe right in the soft skin in front of her hind leg. Blech! The only effect was that I had a mouthful of dirty wool. I sat back, wiped my mouth on my sleeve and picked up the bottle again. Perhaps I could regain my serenity by bottle feeding to the accompaniment of two lambs and one ewe baaing in my ears.

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